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"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."

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Monday, March 22, 2004
 

Coins and Corals and Carved Coconuts

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The Blogger Idol topic this week is "Childhood Treasures." You may see a full list of this week's entries by clicking on the above icon.




trea-sure
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English tresor, from Old French, from Latin thesaurus -- more at THESAURUS
1 a (1) : wealth (as money, jewels, or precious metals) stored up or hoarded (2) : wealth of any kind or in any form : RICHES b : a store of money in reserve
2 : something of great worth or value; also : a person esteemed as rare or precious
3 : a collection of precious things
4 : a small box of coins from foreign lands


There was just something sparkling about holding, in your hand, some item that came from far away.

I would close my hand, and for a moment I would have this connection with a place so distant I barely knew the name. Kenya, perhaps, as I held a carved coal baboon. Or India, as I carefully emptied a tiny cotton bag of its contents, 12 ivory elephants no bigger than a flake of oatmeal. Or maybe a silkworm cocoon from China, or a rondador flute from Ecuador, or shell windchimes from Bangkok.

Back then, we did not have a global economy yet. Even an export powerhouse like Taiwan held mystery and seemed like a land separated from me by vast distance. Which, of course, it was.


When I would visit my grandmother and grandfather's house, there were certain items I would always go visit, in their sunroom. To them, these things were just bric-a-brac, but to me, they were tickets to travel just as good as any in an airport.

I remember a piece or coral, spangled all over with little star pockmarks, that one uncle had brought back from some long ago beach trip. For me, that was the definitive coral, all other corals would only exist to be compared to that one.

I remember a butter mold. You could use it to make a nice looking square of butter with a flower on top after you had churned the milk. I imagined some frontier family using it.

And I remember a carved coconut head with seashell eyes and a wooden cigar. He had the letters "Trinidad" carved into his forehead. When grandmom and granddad passed away, he ended up with me and sits in a place of high honor in my home right now.


Then there were the stamps and coins. My father and my aunt kept me well supplied with them. My aunt would pick them up at garage and estate sales in Miami (another exotic place, at least to me) and bring them to me when she visited. They would be in a large sack, loose, waiting to be plundered.

And oh, so many hours I spent with them!

Holding coins that read "Norge" from Norway, Francs from France, or pennies from England so large you wondered how they put them all in their pockets. Wildly shaped coins from the Bahamas and the middle east. Coins with holes in them from China. Beautiful coins from Australia, Canada, and Italy. Coins made of everything from nickel and copper to silver and even aluminum.

The paper money was just as fascinating. Everything from an ancient Mexican 1,000 peso note to a one cent note from Hong Kong. I saw everything from kangaroos to pictures of people I did not know on these bills.

Even more beautiful than the coins were the stamps. Every color of the rainbow, every county on the globe. Central America, Africa, Asia, Greenland to Chad, Canada to China, and everywhere in between. Airplanes, ships, flowers, people, animals, all had their time in the sun on a stamp.

So there I would sit, mind entranced, thrilled by the treasure all around me.

And to me, that sense of wonder, that feeling of having "connected" with something greater than me, bigger than me, farther away than me, different from me...

...that is the greatest treasure childhood could have given me.


Children are all foreigners.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)

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